Gr8LakesCamper: Q&A with “Winnebago Man” Director

June 28, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

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¥Winnebago_poster40x27-2Is there anyone in the RV circles who hasn’t heard of Jack Rebney?

Rebney is an RV salesman whose hilarious, foul-mouthed outbursts circulated underground on VHS tapes in the 90s before turning into a full-blown Internet phenomenon in 2005.

Today, “Winnebago Man” has been seen by more than 20 million people worldwide, and is regarded as one of the first and funniest viral videos. Read more

Gr8LakesCamper: Ludington State Park

May 21, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 15 Comments 

Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State ParkAs I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my most favorite magazines is Midwest Living. Every month, the editors do a fantastic job of covering all the great things about the Midwest — with a heavy dose of all things travel-related (lodging, dining, attractions, etc.). The articles are both informative and enjoyable and the design is attractive, but by far the highlight of each issue is the spectacular photography. The recipes section is extremely good.

The May/June issue recently hit our mailbox, and one of its feature stories is their pick for the top state parks each Midwest state has to offer.

Quick aside: As reference to our ongoing debate on what states constitute the Midwest, it’s interesting to note that, at least for this top state parks list, Midwest Living includes as its Midwest states Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Beginning with this post, I’ll periodically feature each of their selections (although still debating whether to include those from the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska; what do you think?).

Ludington State Park, Michigan

Midwest Living said Ludington State Park, located 100 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, is “busy enough to warrant a rich lineup of amenities and programming – including boat rentals, lighthouse tours and guided dune walks – but large enough, at 5,300 acres, to escape summer crowding. Lake Michigan beckons, cobalt waves washing onto unruly dunes. Eighteen miles of trails hopscotch over bridges and boardwalks along inland Hamlin Lake. A bike path traces the tranquil Sable River, and a 2-mile hike north through wild sands leads to the lighthouse tower at Big Sable Point.”

Ludington State Park is practically an island, as it sits nestled between Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake, which was created by loggers at the turn of the last century.

The park boasts over 6 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Here you will find lofty sand dunes, virgin stands of evergreen and hardwood trees, soft, sandy beaches, and an extensive network of hiking, skiing, biking, and canoe trails.

The park’s education and interpretive programming is very popular and offers slide and video presentations, and live programs that can give you a better appreciation of the wildlife, geology, and history of this unique area.

Ludington State Park offers wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities from its 18 miles of trails system. Walk the Skyline Trail for some spectacular views of high dune ridges and Lake Michigan, and hike the Lighthouse Trail to Big Sable Point Lighthouse to sample a bit of Michigan’s maritime history.

Perhaps the most unique trail here is the canoe trail. Brochures at the visitor center show you how to make a unique passage along the bayous and inlets of Hamlin Lake’s shoreline. Slip silently down this trail early in the morning for a high probability of viewing herons, egrets, waterfowl, deer, and other animals along the water’s edge. The Sable River, which flows from Hamlin Lake to Lake Michigan, is just as popular for wildlife and canoeists.

There are three modern campgrounds at Ludington State Park — Pines, Cedar and Beechwood — with a combined total of 355 campsites including three mini-cabins. These sites have electricity and modern shower and bathroom facilities in each campground.

Cedar Campground also has a small loop of eight tent-only sites separated from the modern site loop. These tent sites do not have electricity but are within walking distance of the restrooms and showers. For backpack campers, Ludington offers 10 remote tent sites in the new Jack Pine Hike-In only campground. This campground has no electricity and the toilet facilities are rustic. Showers are available at the Pines modern campground.

My relatives — RV campers, of course — have stayed here many times and it’s easily their top choice when it’s time for camping. Trouble is, Ludington State Park is so good it’s nearly impossible to reserve a site, especially on weekends. And the holidays? Fuggedaboutit. But, in Michigan you can reserve a state park campsite six months in advance, so pick a summer date, and sometime in late winter go online here and stake your claim.

Folks at RV Park Reviews had a few minor complaints, but overall most seemed to really enjoy their stay.

“Large, diverse, and pretty park with lots to do,” said one camper. “There’s a long beach along Lake Michigan for sunbathing, a good-sized inland lake for motor boating and canoing, and a short stretch of river connecting the two lakes for lazily tubing/rafting.”

“Very impressive State Park, well run and well maintained,” said another camper. “Very quiet with a wonderful boardwalk for fishing, walking and bird viewing. Many terrific hiking trails and a very picturesque lighthouse. Great campground if you like the outdoors and wildlife.”

From the Personal Blog: Strawberry pie-eating contests, duct tape parade floats, live jazz & blues, outdoor arts, stilt walkers, cross-country bicycling, washboard music, military encampments and musters and the Memorial Golf Tournament are all sure signs of June in Ohio! Click here to read the whole thing.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Ground Rules

May 10, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 5 Comments 

Midwest Living magazine, one of my very favorite magazines, came out with their picks for the best state parks in the Midwest. The magazine’s May/June 2010 issue features 36 of the best state parks in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

I plan on highlighting some of their selections in the very near future.

It is interesting to note what states Midwest Living considers as those in the Midwest. I have been somewhat struggling with what states to include as the Midwest for this blog and it became a source of minor debate in an earlier post.

The name of the blog is Gr8LakesCamper, so the Great Lakes region is in play. But I also say that Gr8LakesCamper “celebrates the world of RV camping in the Midwest.” Are the Great Lakes region and the Midwest one in the same? Probably not.

So, in keeping with the name of the blog, I have decided that all states with shoreline on the Great Lakes — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota — plus Ontario, Canada, will receive the most emphasis on this blog.

However, should a suitable topic present itself, I reserve the right to blog about those states in the immediate vicinity — such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri. For example, this summer my family and I will be camping at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, and I will most definitely be blogging about that trip.

And another thing. As stated, this blog celebrates the world of RV camping in the Midwest. Obviously, this means most posts will be about camping destinations in the Great Lakes/Midwest. However, I also reserve the right to every now and then go off topic and blog about something other than a Midwest camping destination. Most of the time these will be posted on my personal blog and not here, but on very rare occasions I might want to post it here, too.

I want this blog to be enjoyable for all, me included.

There. Ground rules have been set.

On the Personal Blog — The 13th Annual Gathering of the Tin Can Tourists, an organization committed to the celebration of classic trailers and motor coaches, will honor the 100th Anniversary of the RV Industry at its Thirteenth Annual Gathering on May 20-23, 2010 at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan. Click here to read the whole thing.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

June 26, 2009 by Nick Russell · 1 Comment 

Today we may not think of Nebraska as being the Wild West, but there was a time when the Cornhusker State was the very edge of the frontier. Indian fighters, gold prospectors, outlaws, lawmen, ranchers, and settlers all passed through and spent time in Nebraska. One of the most famous Old West names associated with the state was William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the flamboyant buffalo hunter, Indian scout, and showman. Read more

National Motorcycle Museum

June 12, 2009 by Nick Russell · 461 Comments 

Motorcycles. Some people love them and some people hate them. If you’re one of those who enjoys the thrill of travel on two wheels and the wind in your hair, you know a special kind of joy and freedom those who confine themselves to four wheels (or more) will never experience. If you fall into the category of people who just don’t “get” the love of motorcycles… as the saying goes, if I have to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand anyway. 

Read more

National Parks: Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, Iowa

March 7, 2009 by RV Today Archive · 10 Comments 

If you’re looking for a slice of Americana on your next camping stop or wish to see the “sites less traveled,” try Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in eastern Iowa! It’s a great stop on the trek from parts east to Mt. Rushmore, the Pacific Northwest and on into Alaska.

Hoover was the first president to be born west of the Missississippi River.Herbert Clark Hoover, the 31st President of the U.S., is usually remembered as an unpopular leader whose efforts couldn’t save America from the Depression, and was soundly defeated by FDR in the 1932 election. Though he has the unlucky legacy of being at the helm when the stock market crashed, Hoover was just a man like any other in America, born from humble beginnings and working his way to success. In Hoover’s words, “In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope.”

cottage where Herbert Hoover was born, West Branch, IowaThis historic site is located in West Branch, Iowa, about 12 miles east of Iowa City. Several historic buildings and meaningful locations are included on the 187-acre park grounds, including Hoover’s birthplace, a blacksmith shop, a Quaker Meeting House, and the adjacent Hoover Presidential Library. The entrance fee of $6 per adult also admits you to the Presidential Library.

Wander around inside the quaint two-room cottage where Herbert Hoover was born in 1874. After being orphaned at age 9, Hoover would later move to Oregon to live with an uncle until enrolling at Stanford University in 1891.

inside the Friends Meetinghouse, West Branch IowaAs a well-educated Quaker family, the Hoovers had a strong sense of community, wherein each member contributed to the benefit of the community as a whole. This instilled in young Herbert a strong drive for service that he would follow his whole life. Stroll around inside the restored Friends Meetinghouse where the family gathered for worship.

Hoover’s father owned his own blacksmith shop, a reproduction of which you can visit to see live demonstrations. Watching his father work is said to have inspired Herbert to be a dedicated businessman and skilled manager.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is one of just 12 such libraries operated by the National Archives and is worth a peek during your trip. Tour the fascinating exhibits about the life and times of the 31st President then stop by the gift shop to pick up a piece of Midwest political nostalgia.

bluebird house in tallgrass prairie, iowaIn a nod to Hoover’s fondness for nature, 76 acres of tallgrass prairie have been restored on the south and west flanks of the park. Trails have been mowed into the grass, allowing you to wander through the prairie and imagine life as a pioneer on the vast wind-swept plains. While in office, Hoover added 3 million acres to the National Park Service and increased the U.S. Forest Service by 2.3 million acres.

Camping Info
Ample RV Parking at the Herbert Hoover NHS is located across the street on the right side. Cruise on over to Iowa City to camp at the Colony Country Campground. It’s a Good Sam Park with good gravel interior roads. Pull-thru sites are 30’x 70’ while back-in sites are 30’x60’, and both have full hookups with either 30 amp or 30/50 amp service. They also offer a laundry facility, dump station, firewood and restrooms with showers and flush toilets. You also get free WiFi. Last year’s rates are $20 to $30 per night. Call for more information (319) 626-2221. The campground is also close to the Kalona Amish settlement.

After you’ve seen your fill of the Herbert Hoover NHS you can experience what else eastern Iowa has to offer: Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marquette, the Dubuque River Walk in Dubuque on the Mississippi, and the farms of the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Then, journey onward to Black Hawk Lake in western Iowa before heading over to Yellowstone Park or McCall, Idaho.

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State Parks: Black Hawk Lake, Iowa

March 2, 2009 by RV Today Archive · 4 Comments 

Fall foliage at Black Hawk Lake, Iowa Situated between Des Moines and Sioux City, Black Hawk Lake is a 957-acre glacial lake in rural Sac County in scenic west central Iowa. Ancient glaciers carved the lake bottom, which was filled when the ice melted. It’s a great stop on your way across the country in either direction, or on the way to Alaska from east of the Mississippi River.

The lake is named about the Sac Indian Chief Black Hawk. When the area lands were opened for settlement in 1828, the chief and his followers refused to move west, thereby prompting the Black Hawk War.

Tree line on Black Hawk Lake, IowaOutdoor Activities: The lake offers swimming, boating and fishing for dozens of different fish—channel catfish, crappies, walleyes, bluegills, sunfish and several kinds of bass. The state park recreation facilities at Crescent Beach include a volleyball court, Frisbee golf course and a large playground area. Take a break from playing and have a picnic at one of the many open picnic shelters surrounding the water’s edge.

Depending on the season, you can hunt for waterfowl, deer, pheasant and cottontail rabbit. Make sure to read up on hunting information and regulations before you go. In winter the lake freezes over, providing a solid platform for ice-skating, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Migrating waterfowl on Black Hawk Lake, IowaTake a hike along the “Stubb” Severson Nature Trail to learn about the shrubs and trees in the park. Visitors often see deer, waterfowl and many types of songbirds along the trail. Use this trail to access Witches Tower, a stone shelter built by the CCC in the 1930s, and enjoy the view from the highest point overlooking the Black Hawk Lake area.

Bring your bicycle and take off on the Sauk Rail Trail, a paved 33-mile multi-use trail that connects Black Hawk Lake State Park with Swan Lake State Park just south of Carroll. The trail winds through the countryside and several towns, where you can stop for a bite to eat or do some shopping.

Other Things to Do and See:
Explore the charming town of Lake View, a friendly farming community of about 1,300 residents (many of whom are descendants of 20 pioneer families) to the northwest of Black Hawk Lake. Sac County was voted one of the best places to live in rural America by Progressive Farmer.

Catch a glimpse of pioneer life at the Lake View Historical Museum, where you can see a log cabin from 1870. The museum is open weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 2-4 p.m., and is located at 114 Crescent Park Drive.

If you brought your golf clubs, play a quick round at one of the three 9-hole public golf courses within 15 miles of Lake View. Or you can take the family for a game of mini-golf at the 19-hole course at Boulder Beach, next to Crescent Beach right on the lakeshore.

Camping Info: The campgrounds in the area are open year-round but the water is shut off for the winter season.

The Black Hawk Lake State Park campground has 128 grass campsites, of which 89 are equipped with electrical hookups (20/30 amp). The campground has good, paved interior roads and back-in sites are 15’x 40’. There are modern, accessible showers and restroom facilities, as well as a dump station. No reservations. Last year’s rates range from $8-$16, and the campground is open from June to September. Call (712) 657-8712 for more information.

Camp Crescent is a public campground at the west end of the lake. It has good gravel interior roads, 40 gravel sites and 141 grass sites. There are pull-thrus (20’x 60’) and back-ins (20’x 60’). The campground also features restrooms, showers and a dump station. Last year’s rates are $10-$17 and the campground is open and staffed from April 15 to November 1. Call (712) 657-2189 for more information.

30 Acres Campground is a public campground on the south side of the lake. It has 89 gravel pad sites with electrical hookups (30/50 amp) and 10 with water service. Rates range from $6-$16. An unsupervised swimming beach is on the east side of the campground, and can be used by campers and the public. For more information, call (712) 657-8712.

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Stainless Steel Coach Upgrades

July 20, 2008 by Lug_Nut · 309 Comments 

Personalizing, or customizing a motor home, is a relatively popular thing today.  While for many this consists of choosing color schemes and interior swatches if ordering a new coach from the factory, or perhaps locating a unique color graphic on one in the market place, new or used.  Add-ons like chrome exhaust tips, fancy mud flaps and wheel dressing are also popular choices.  At the high end of this craze is customized re-painting and graphical color designs.  But one item, probably in the mid add-on price range, that is in my mind the best bang for the buck, is stainless lower body trim.  This chrome like accent to the rocker panels can provide a striking look to any motor home as well as adding lower body protection from road grime and debris.

The material used is generally a high quality stainless steel.  It can be ordered with a plain flat polished surface or with folded ridges running horizontally.  It is glued to the body with no need for any mechanical fasteners and is normally guaranteed never to come off.  It is also available in various sizes depending on how high you would want the material to be from the bottom edge of the body.  Further personalizing can be selected as to how the entrance steps would be trimmed, if the rear departure lift will be followed or horizontally ran out and additional trim to body contours. 


So, where do you get it and how much does it cost?  There are several manufacturers and suppliers in the U.S.   One of the more popular is Summit Products of Johnston, Iowa.  At Summit they design, laser cut, and install a top quality product built to the individual’s needs and wants.  Costs, on say a 40 foot coach, can generally run from under $3,000 to $5,900 or more, all depending on what the owner wishes.   Ridged material can run a bit more than flat as the ridges may require to be angle ground at the basement door edges to provide clearance when opened.  Of course, if you would prefer your coach be stainless trimmed to resemble a Marathon Prevost XL, it can be done, but at a much higher dollar.  The choice is entirely yours.

There are many more options and additional add-ons available from Summit, like fuel door trimmings, interior step faces, jack pads, etc.  In fact there are so many options and variations that can be tailor made, it is reasonable to assume that one could virtually customize their rig to be a one of a kind.  

One consideration when getting this done is the extra basement door weight.  In some cases this may exceed the ability of the existing gas shocks that hold the doors open.  Either larger stronger ones or the addition of an extra one may be required.  In the above picture, an additional shock was added.  These are available from most RV supply houses and possibly also from Summit themselves.


So, is there a return on the investment when sale or trade time comes around?  While it is possible that a portion of the original cost may in fact be recovered, it is doubtful.  It may however, sway a buyer when comparing a choice of a similar coach.  Either way, you may have a coach that will uniquely stand out from the others.

 With An Upgrade Idea    -   Lug_Nut    -    Peter Mercer


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